“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. (Mark 15:2 NIV)
Although Biblical prophecy suggests Jesus would be led like a lamb silent to the slaughter, He did say a few things. He just didn’t say anything with the intent of saving His life. Nowhere is this clearer than in this morning’s verse.
In the beginning…the very beginning…there was to be no King of the Jews. When Israel reached the Promised Land, they were still operating under a patriarchal system with Moses administrating the Laws of God. After the time of the Judges, the Jewish people cried out for an earthly king. They wanted to operate on the same governmental level as their neighbors. Samuel, the last of the Judges, tried to discourage them, but God told him to let them have their way, even though they were rejecting Him as their leader.
The history of Israel’s kings is well documented in the Bible. There were a few good ones, but even the ones we know best brought pain and sorrow to the nation. David put the “D” in dysfunctional family, and Solomon introduced a culture of paganism and extravagance that undermined the integrity of the throne for generations to come. The Kings helped make Israel a military power, but they ultimately brought down the nation.
So the notion of a “king of the Jews” in New Testament times was a loaded one. For the Jews, it suggested a Messiah was coming to restore the prestige and power their nation had once known under leaders like David and Solomon. For Herod the Great, who had himself been proclaimed “king of the Jews” by Rome, baby Jesus was a direct threat.
But in truth, Jesus was the “king of the Jews,” in more ways than one. He was the promised king who was coming to restore His people. And He was the king He has always said He was…ruler over everything. He was very God of very God.
Had Pilate understood the scriptures he could have saved himself a lot of trouble. Jesus wasn’t a threat to the Roman Empire as a political structure, though His teaching was a challenge to its pagan culture. Rather, Jesus’ kingdom was above Rome, and all kingdoms on earth. Theoretically, it was possible for Rome to recognize Jesus as the Son of the Living God, and allow Him to reign, even as it continued to meet the needs of the empire. Of course the nature of Rome was so entrenched in practices that were opposed to the will of God it is hard to see this as even a distant possibility.
My point is people rejected Jesus for all the wrong reasons. Pilate and Herod rejected Him because they were afraid of losing political power. The chief priests and teachers of the law rejected Him because they were looking for an insurrectionist, not a personal Savior.
Yes, He was the king of the Jews. He was, and still is our king. The question is, “How have we cast Him?” Is He a weak king who takes care of our needs, but lets us live anyway we want? Is He an advocate king who takes up our political causes? Or is He the ruler of our hearts who challenges our selfish ambition and self-righteousness and leads us to lay down our lives for the sake of the kingdom? I know this: He will rule as He chooses. And His “will” will be done.
Dear God, rule over me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.